America’s attorney general has ordered a new post-mortem examination on a black teenager whose shooting by a white police officer sparked protests in Missouri.
The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, and a request by family members prompted the order by Eric Holder, US Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said.
The federal examination would take place as soon as possible, Mr Fallon said, adding that the Justice Department still planned to take the state-performed tests into account in the course of its investigation.
Meanwhile another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated in Ferguson after marchers pushed towards the end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a megaphone that the protest was no longer peaceful.
A preliminary private post-mortem examination found Mr Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.
Dr Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Mr Brown’s skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.
Mr Brown was also shot four times in the right arm and all the bullets were fired into his front, Dr Baden said.
The Justice Department had already stepped up its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighbourhood where Mr Brown, who was unarmed, was shot dead on August 9.
A federally-conducted examination “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s US attorney’s office. The move was “not that unusual”, he added.
Government authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Mr Weinstein said.
The latest clashes in Ferguson erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Missouri governor Jay Nixon. It was not clear why officers acted ahead of the deadline for people to be off the street.
Police in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two streets away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.
Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the pavement near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but they easily ploughed through. Someone set a nearby rubbish bin on fire and gunshots rang out several blocks away.
Within two hours, most people had been cleared off one of the community’s main thoroughfares.
Earlier, Missouri State Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson, whose agency is now in charge of security in Ferguson, said he had met members of Mr Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart”.
The Rev Al Sharpton told the rally Mr Brown’s death was a “defining moment for this country”.
Mr Sharpton said he wanted Congress to stop programmes that provided military-style weaponry to police forces. He said he expected police to “smear” the dead teenager, his family and his lawyers and also condemned the recent violence and looting in Ferguson.
The protests have been going on since Mr Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Mr Nixon to place the state highway patrol in charge of security.
Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Mr Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Mr Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.
Mr Nixon told ABC’s This Week that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Mr Brown is alleged to have stolen a £30 box of cigars.
“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” he said.
Police have said little about the encounter between Mr Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Mr Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.
The officer who shot Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson, 28, a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him. He has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting and the department has refused to say anything about his whereabouts.
About 150 people gathered in St Louis to show support for Officer Wilson, protesting outside a TV station because it had broadcast in front of the policeman’s home.
The St Louis Post-Dispatch said the station, KSDK, later apologised. Others in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts.